Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Thursday 13 December 2012

Last night I continued reducing local computing costs by turning off my home desktop PC. The old PC has a ton of space and a lot of applications that my laptop doesn't have, plus a nifty dual-DVI video card. But a couple of things have changed since 2008.

First, my current laptop, a Dell Latitude E6420, has a faster processor, the same amount of RAM, and a solid-state drive, making it about twice as fast as the desktop. Second, Dell has a new, upgraded docking station that will drive two big monitors easily. (Sadly, though the docking station can drive two DVIs, my laptop's video chip can only do one DVI and one VGA.) Third, the laptop uses buttloads less power than the desktop. Fourth, portable terabyte drives are a lot less expensive today than in 2008—and a lot smaller. And finally, I take my laptop to and from work, meaning I have a minor hassle keeping it synchronized with my desktop.

Here's my office about three years ago (January 2010):

A few months later I got a second 24-inch monitor (November 2010 photo):

Notice the printer has moved to make room for the second monitor, but otherwise the setup remains the same. The monitors connect to the desktop under the desk to the left, while the laptop has its own cradle to the right.

Now this afternoon:

The printer has landed on the floor directly under where it used to sit (I print about 3 pages per month, so this isn't the inconvenience it seems), the laptop has moved over to the printer's old spot (and has connected to the monitors), and the old desktop machine sits quietly consuming 225 fewer Watts per hour. I also replaced the 10-year-old, no-longer-functioning 2+1 speaker set with a more compact set. The round thing between the keyboard and the laptop near the center of the photo is a speakerphone that I use with Skype.

I think everyone knows the dog under the desk by now, too. He's not happy that I rearranged his favorite sleeping cave, so I might get a couple of weeks without mounds of dog hair under my desk until he decides the printer is harmless.

So far today I have been unusually productive, whether because of the novelty or because I have a fire-under-the-ass deadline at work. So back to it.

Thursday 13 December 2012 13:58:53 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Parker | Business#

Cranky Flier analyzes the surprise Delta-Virgin merger in terms of JFK–LHR:

Of course, British Airways and American have the strongest position in London by far. Delta would have been hard-pressed to grow a position itself considering the slot restrictions at the airport along with the already ample capacity on these routes. With this deal, Delta becomes more relevant in London, but more importantly, it becomes more relevant in places like New York, from where London is one of the most important business destinations. This simple chart showing daily flights each way from all New York airports should make it very clear.

Routes AA/BA Delta Delta
+ Virgin

New York-Heathrow 15 2 8

I told you it was a simple one. Today, Delta is an afterthought. If its schedule fits a loyal traveler’s needs, then people will take it. But more often than not, that probably won’t happen. Combined with Virgin Atlantic, however, there is a very respectable schedule that now also covers the other side of the Hudson in Newark. Delta becomes relevant.

Whatever happens, I just hope there are at least three airlines left standing. That's enough for real competition on popular routes, and none is more popular for trans-Atlantic travel than New York to London.

Thursday 13 December 2012 09:00:42 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Wednesday 12 December 2012

All right, all right. It's 12-12-12 everyone! Happy?

Save time; call it 12³.

Wednesday 12 December 2012 08:18:42 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 11 December 2012

Possibly in mourning, as the last Hostess Twinkies hit the shelves in Chicago today:

Jewel-Osco said Monday that the final shipment of Hostess Brands baked goods, including Twinkies, will be delivered and sold at Chicago area Jewel stores Tuesday morning.

About 20,000 boxes of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and other Hostess products will be placed on store shelves at different times of day at different stores. Jewel lists the store locations and estimated times of delivery on Facebook, facebook.com/JewelOsco.

All is not lost, of course. The Sun-Times notes, "Hundreds of potential buyers, including at least five major retailers, have expressed interest in Hostess’ brands, recipes and some of its factories." But if you wanted to get one, last Twinkie, hurry to da Jools right now.

Tuesday 11 December 2012 12:10:09 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 10 December 2012

Chicago has had no measurable snowfall since March 4th, 281 days ago, which is the longest such period in Chicago history:

If no measurable snow falls at O'Hare today [it didn't—DB], we could go on to shatter the previous record by at least another 4 days. The forecast is dry after today through the end of the week. The graphics [on WGN's blog post] show the total snowfall accumulation forecast for the next 10 days ending early next Thursday morning. The GFS model (on top) shows a potential of 33 mm during the period while the European model (on bottom) shows a potential for up to 102 mm. Hang in there snow lovers!

A snow-free environment from March 4th to December 14th is more normal for Raleigh, N.C., not for Chicago. Or anyway, it used to be.

Monday 10 December 2012 17:23:08 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Raleigh | Weather#

The Cranky Flier has some inside dish on the possible airline merger that I mentioned Friday:

US Airways is still trying to convince American that its plan is better. Maybe American management will get a big enough payout to go along. Or maybe AA’s management will see the writing on the wall depending upon how this offer unfolds and just decide it can’t win. Or maybe it can actually come up with something that will keep American independent, but I’d say that the chances of that are slim.

As we head toward the holidays, everything starts to slow down. We might not hear anything about a merger until the new year, but I wouldn’t expect that we’d be waiting much longer than that. The time to decide which way this airline is going is here. Now we just have to sit and wait to see what happens. I’m still expecting that a merger will happen, but I’m really curious to see how it all unfolds.

This comes on the heels of American's pilots reaching agreement with management on a labor contract, which helps fix the value of the combined airline.

Monday 10 December 2012 16:40:59 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Sunday 9 December 2012

This morning, Transport for London opened a new branch of the London Overground, creating a circular line connecting many of London's less-affluent neighborhoods in a giant circle:

Until recently, substantial parts of London (notably the South and East) had limited subway access, relying instead on poorly integrated, less reliable commuter rail lines run by national train companies. Some of these worked okay and some were terrible – the notoriously unreliable one near where I grew up used to be called the Cinderella Line, presumably because while you were waiting eternally for some grand carriage to arrive, all you saw on the line were mice.

The Overground has taken these old lines and knitted them together with newly constructed underground trackways and new stations (mainly in the under-served South and East). A number of these stations also have subway connections, so this once separate network is now a fully integrated extension to the subway rather than a shoddy, second-tier alternative.

The Overground’s rolling stock is also a huge improvement. While London’s subway trains are constrained by narrow tunnels, the Overground’s single carriage trains are wider and higher, with space for bikes outside rush hour and air conditioning.

(The new London Overground, as of today.)

Sunday 9 December 2012 09:21:52 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | London | Travel#
Saturday 8 December 2012

Well, my cousin and I did it. We put down our deposit for two season tickets to Wrigley Field. Even though we both prefer the first-base side, we found better seats right by the press box on the third-base side:

Specifically, these seats:

With this view:

Now we just have to pay for them and go to a lot of games. Otherwise, it's back to the end of the line, which now has nearly 120,000 people in it.

Saturday 8 December 2012 13:26:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cubs#
Friday 7 December 2012

Finally! Reuters reported about 90 minutes ago that US Airways has made an offere to buy bankrupt American Airlines, which would create an $8.5 bn airline:

Under the all-stock proposal US Airways made in mid-November at a meeting with AMR's unsecured creditors committee, the bankrupt airline's creditors would own 70 percent of the merged company and US Airways shareholders 30 percent, the person said.

US Airways and AMR are negotiating toward a potential merger agreement that could come as soon as January, the person added, asking not to be named because the matter is not public.

When the public-quiet period began back at the end of August, I thought it would take close to a year for the airlines to reach a deal. To me, an elite frequent flier on American, the merger is the best possible outcome, because it's the one in which I'm most likely to keep my banked miles and elite status. To American's pilots, mechanics, and flight attendants, it's the best possible outcome because they get to keep their jobs (mostly). And with American's unions supporting the deal, it will likely go smoothly.

January, huh? That would be fantastic.

Friday 7 December 2012 16:35:02 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#

That's what LinkedIn's career expert says:

Back when I started working with LinkedIn, we released our very first ranking of the most overused profile buzzwords. I remember thinking how important it was to steer clear of “extensive experience” (the number one overused term in 2010) if you wanted to shine among the 85 million professionals who were touting their years in the trenches as their defining characteristic.

Well, it’s three years later and with over 100 million MORE professionals on LinkedIn, the stakes to stand out from this year’s very “creative” (this year’s most oft used adjective) crowd are even higher. Here are a few tips for saying what you mean with words that will get you noticed.

LinkedIn lists these as the most buzzy:

  • Analytical
  • Creative
  • Effective
  • Experimental
  • Motivated
  • Multinational
  • Responsible
  • Specialized

Just try writing a résumé without them...go on...

Friday 7 December 2012 15:55:00 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business#
Thursday 6 December 2012

Via AVWeb: Boeing has put up a 787 Dreamliner simulator that allows you to (virtually) sit in the cockpit. You can check out any of the instruments, look out the windows, and listen to the cockpit crew.

Someday you might even fly in a real one.

Thursday 6 December 2012 08:48:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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